When you first enter the gym, regardless if you’re a guy or a girl, you hear about protein. You get offered a shake at the register, you hear people discussing different kinds of protein in between sets, and sooner or later, you start understanding its significance when it comes to your gym progress.
As all of you likely already know, protein is one of the three main macronutrients found in food, and it’s the one mainly responsible for helping you build muscle mass and recover from strenuous training loads. For that reason, it’s extremely important for athletes and for people who want to see the best possible results from their workouts.
With that said, in the fitness community, the discussions around protein typically revolve around which is better – mass gainer or protein powder, vegan or whey, isolate or casein, etc. People mostly talk about the protein we can find in a supplement store and forget the one that can be found in the food we consume on a daily basis. That’s why, in this short article, we’re going to turn our attention to meat as a source of protein and talk to you about what are the best types of meats for building muscle mass and which ones you can skip out on.
Four Kinds of Meat You Should Eat for Muscle Building
You need two things to build muscle – lift weights and eat more protein-rich foods. If you’re missing either one of these two components, you likely won’t get the results you’re aiming for. Having said that, gym culture can often make you feel like protein only exists in a tube (especially when you’re a beginner). In reality, however, you can get all the protein you need from the standard food we buy from the supermarkets, especially if you’re willing to make some adjustments.
When it comes to the kind of meat you want to have, you should always look for meats that are lean – meaning they don’t contain a ton of fat but still have a high protein content. Here are our top picks.
Along with being incredibly delicious, steaks are also one of the best protein sources out there. They digest slowly, which keeps your protein synthesis elevated for hours after you’ve eaten. Along with that, they contain some healthy fats and are a great source of iron and zinc – minerals that are vital for athletes and that are difficult to find in other food sources.
Even though steaks tend to have some saturated fat – don’t fear it. As long as you choose leaner portions and you opt for the grass-fed variety, you won’t get any negative results from having a steak once or twice per week.
We can’t discuss protein-rich meats and not mention the holy grail of the “gym bro” diet, and that’s, of course – chicken. It’s the most common, preferred, and easy-to-find meat protein source out there, and it’s what most people gravitate towards in the start of their fitness journey. There are two main varieties for people wanting to build muscle, and that’s chicken breasts and thighs, with the first option being the more lean one.
When it comes to chicken, one of its pros is that it’s super versatile – you can have it baked, grilled, boiled in a soup, or marinated and placed in a salad. It’s also very cost-effective, especially compared to beef.
Turkey is associated with Thanksgiving, and most people tend to eat it mainly during that time of the year. However, if you’re working out regularly and want to spice up your diet, turkey is a great choice for a protein source, as it’s incredibly lean and can also be prepared in a tasty way. When it comes to its nutritional content, it’s on par with chicken breast as it’s low in fats and high in protein. But, as a bonus, turkey tends to contain more minerals such as folate, zinc, and iron, making it a slightly superior option to the well-known chicken.
If you’re someone who prefers red meat over chicken or turkey, then bison is another option you can consider adding to your diet. While you can’t find it easily (like you can steak), it’s an incredible lean source of protein that can work great in addition to your training program. For 100 grams of bison meat, you get just barely around 3 grams of fat (which makes it as lean as chicken), and you get more protein as a bonus.
Unlike most red meats, bison is actually low in cholesterol, containing even less than chicken does, while offering more iron than both beef and chicken. It’s also a rich source of vitamin B12, phosphorus, selenium, and vitamin B6, all of which are vital minerals and vitamins for all athletes as their support the nervous and muscle systems.
Don’t Forget The Most Important Part
When it comes to sports nutrition, choosing the right protein sources is key for achieving your ideal form and getting the kind of muscle mass you desire to reach. All of the sources we shared in this article are great options for your daily dinners and lunches, but there are more that you can discover, such as tuna or salmon. The key to getting to your best form is to not get obsessive over it – ideally, you should aim for just under one gram of protein per pound of body weight – a number you can easily achieve if you eat a protein source with each of your main meals for the day. Along with that, on the days where you have a hard time eating a lot or you simply want a tasty desert, that’s also healthy, you can opt for a protein shake, a pint of Greek yogurt, or a protein bar – all of which are a great way to supplement your protein intake.